- Review by Amanda Harvey
Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War is hard to put into words because the film stresses the very definitions the world offers. The definitions which ultimately fail to grasp the complexities of life and offer only cold simplicities.
Cold War is a harrowing sentiment imbedded in a shared history and a personal rendering of the past. The tale is a man falling in love with a woman. Pawlikowski’s approach creates a stunning labyrinth where the repercussions of finding one’s soulmate is torn by the classifications of reality.
A traveling folk band brings together the lovers, Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Tomaz Kot). The aged composer and the youthful singer are intertwined in a war-destroyed Poland occupied by communism. While attempting to propagandize their own nationality to others through the various folk numbers she performs, and he leads, they find something real: each other. The film analyses identity in the form of a romantic crisis tracking through languages, borders, and pasts. In spite all of these categorisations set to divide, defy, and define them there is solace in their passions.
The film is a collection of repetitions as the couple splits and reconnects through different avenues to create something other than a functioning family. Indeed these lovers were set for a worthwhile disaster. And at every end there are unanswerable questions that swarm and swell, surrounding what ultimately can no longer be and so, what was then can never be what is now.
Cold War asks more questions than it answers and that is exactly why the film is so humbly insightful. The film does not beg you to ask questions till it’s end because it grips you in the couple’s catastrophic love. But, when it does end, you feel yourself sinking into humility as you are forced to ask where the source of your identity stems: nationality, friends, passions, lovers, ticks, habits, and imperfections. Are we then beyond the language bound arbitrary definitions we seek? And if so, how do we claim who we are?